________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005


The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi.
Toronto, Annick Press, 2005.
80 pp., pbk. & cl., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-916-X (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-917-8 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Jeans (Clothing)-History.
Jeans (Clothing).

Grades 6-12 / Ages 11-17.

Review by Linda Ludke.

**** /4



Jeans - they're practically in our genes. People have been buying pairs ever since Levi Strauss made the first ones in California in 1873. And the love of denim has travelled from North America around the world. Teenagers in Europe, Asia and South America are wearing some of the same brands as we are. Even in places where everything else seems different, jeans are still jeans. Ever notice that when the evening news shows a student protest in Pakistan or a peace rally in Israel, every one's pants are the same? Jeans transcend nationality, race, and even war, yet they're one of the most ordinary parts of our lives.


This fascinating "Story Behind the Seams" not only traces the evolution of jeans, but it provides a cultural and social history of the 20th century. The life and times of Levi Strauss and his business partner, Jacob Davis, are explored in early chapters, along with their main competitor, Henry David Lee. Readers will find out how rivets, the "Arcuate" pattern, and the zipper revolutionized the early "waist-high overalls.

      The book features eye-catching page layout and design. Sidebars are in the shape of back pockets. A series of time capsules offers insight into history-making world events, such as "Behind the Iron Curtain: Jeans Were There."

      Full page vintage advertisements are a great addition, and they complement the text. The ads show how blue jeans changed with the times, from cowboy gear, to a patriotic "Rosie the Riveter" wartime dress code for women, to 1960s protest wear. Photographs of the oldest pair of 501 jeans still in existence (dating from about 1879) attest to the durability and longevity of the style, as does the sensational Ripley's Believe it or Not! ad from 1939 depicting Tom Boyd's "26 mile crawl on untreated concrete—Wore out the man—but not the Lee Overalls!"

      The dark side of the fashion industry is examined in the "Borderless Blues" chapter. Cotton growers in Uzbekistan have drained an inland sea for irrigation for their fields, leaving fishing villages stranded. The chemicals used to protect crops from insects pollute the environment, and workers die from toxic exposure. The realities of sweatshop labour also are described. Readers are given tips on how to check which jeans are made in factories that supervise their contractors and ban the use of child labour.

      Students will appreciate the source list at the end, which includes books, journal articles, websites and video recordings.

The Blue Jean Book is bursting at the seams with well-written, engaging material.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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